Okonomiyaki Chain Store – 42 – Reunite with a Former Employee

Okonomiyaki Chain Store – 42 – Reunite with a Former Employee

Part 9: Osaka’s Auntie Battles with the Carp God

Chapter 42: Reunite with a Former Employee

 

Translated by Gumihou

Edited by Onionpi

 

They travelled to Old Capital Hower from the Royal Capital proper via the slightly cramped, horse-drawn carriage.

As they moved out of the Capital, the scenery grew less and less urban, stone buildings and houses giving way to trees and shrubs.

“This relaxing view just keeps going on, naa.”

 

In this world, there were very few people living outside proper human settlements like towns and cities due to the danger of monsters. Unlike in Japan where you might see uninterrupted lines of houses going on and on along the train lines for hours on end, there were large swathes of nothingness between human settlements.

 

A foreigner once famously commented that “I felt like I never really left Tokyo because I keep seeing the houses stretching all the way from my residential area.”

 

“Well, there are some similarities in this world, I guess the Old City is kind of laid-back compared to the Capital?”

Karen clearly had no interest in the scenery outside their window. She was currently snuggling up to Haruna who was seated right between the two girls.

“Hey, don’t make it even more stuffy here, you.” Haruna tried to shrug her off, but to no avail.

“Hey, no need for that kind of language, yaa.”

Seated on Haruna’s other side, Natalia stared at the antics of these women from the corner of her eyes: I could also lean against Haruna like a spoilt cat, but I won’t because I have dignity.

“It’s rare for me to go out since the world is so dangerous here, but when I told father that Haruna will be escorting me, I got permission very quickly.” After all, Haruna was the woman who had defeated dragons, it was perfectly natural for a noble family to want to make connections with such a person.

“I really wish I could travel the world with Haruna-han everywhere, won’t that be nice?”

“Th-that’s impossible!” Natalia said quickly.

“What is that? What does this have to do with you, ya?” Karen stared directly at Natalia.

“Th-that is… while it’s fine to travel for fun now and then… we can’t do it all the time due to time constraint and responsibilities…”

“Are you trying to say that I am suggesting this out of some kind of selfish desire?”

“As long as you involve Haruna in your plans, yes! Haruna is a busy company president with lots of responsibilities! I know so as the Vice-President!”

“I, too, am involved in the company. I’m in charge of the making of Miso and Soy Sauce.”

“Alright you two, stop quarrelling and get along… look, just… be friends now!” Haruna hooked one arm around each women’s neck and forced their faces closer to each other.

They were also accidentally squashed against Haruna’s ample chest, Karen was the first to weaken. Haruna looked down at the ex-Kyoto girl nursing a nosebleed, “Hmm, I wonder… am I thinking too much about this situation…?

“I- I won’t give up so easily, naa…” muttered Karen behind a handkerchief.

While these random antics were happening, the carriage finally arrived at Old Capital Hower.

 

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“Rather than Nara, this place gives off a more Greece-like feel to it, ya na,” commented Haruna as she strolled through the temple ruins.

 

The ceiling for most buildings was completely gone, leaving nothing but sturdy pillars that held steadfastly against the pressure of time. Since Japanese temples and shrines are mostly constructed from wood, complete with a thatched roof that had to be changed every couple of years or so, these stone constructions gave off a more European type of feeling.

 

“There is an active temple here where people could go and worship. This area has been abandoned, however. It is said that the reason why there were so many temples here was because every major family must build one to properly revere their god.”

“I see, so the temples are like really big family shrines. Well, that’s certainly similar to Nara, wa.”

“Aah, by the way. You can take these, wa.” Karen handed them a flat cookie in the shape of a disc.

“What’s this, ya? Some kind of snack?”

“Yes, but not for us, though,”

Something began to approach Haruna from behind. However, there was no killing intent. Instead, one might say that the thing was being rather careless about its own safety.

Haruna turned and saw-

“Ah, it’s a deer!” Natalia sounded rather excited. It was unusual to see such harmless, yet wild animal around urban areas.

Right here though, first one then another, and the next thing they knew, they were surrounded by deers.

“They’re here to eat the deer cookies.”

“This place is basically Nara Park!”

“Na-ra… park?”

“It’s a park with lots of deer, ya. Because the deer are cherished as messengers of God by the people of Nara. They are completely different from those chaps at Miyajima Island. Those were ordinary deer that just happened to live on the island. If those deer swim over to the Honshu shores, they’d be deported back to Miyajima later.”

“Now that you mention it, I think there’s a religion here that has some sort of connection with deer as well. Some kind of legend, I think, naa.”

 

When I (author-san) was much younger, I had been enjoying some bread under the shade of some trees at Nara Park when suddenly, I was surrounded by silent deers. As a child, this kind of thing left quite a scar in my subconscious.

Nowadays, however, with the number of foreigners increasing, there are cases where deers are completely full and refused to eat another deer crackers offered to them. Therefore, people would sometimes place the food before a sitting deer like an offering to an indifferent god.

 

For a time, the girls enjoyed their time giving out flat little ‘deer cookies’ to the local deer. Natalia looked like she enjoyed her time the most.

“I’ve never gone to a mountainside where there are so many tame and harmless deer around. This is so much fun!”

“As for me, I guess it’s because I’ve been to Nara too many times and got used to them, naa.”

On the other hand, Karen was currently puffing with anger, going ‘gu nu nu nu nu’ under her breath before suddenly pitching her voice high and said, “Haruna-han, there’s a really large and active temple just ahead. Why don’t we go and take a look?”

Without waiting for Haruna to answer, she grabbed the company president by the arm and pulled her towards the temple. Natalia was still too enchanted by the deers to notice that she had been left behind. It was not difficult to spot the temple, there was a very distinctive item of interest there that Haruna immediately noticed.

“Hmm? Isn’t that Nara’s Big Bronze Buddha’s statue, naa? To think that a temple-like this would have such a big statue of a god.”

“Oh, don’t you know? This is the most important deity within this country, so of course, we would have a large statue of him here.”

As I thought, mused Haruna, this place really is very Nara-ish. “However, since it is a god of this world, considering the magic here and everything, it certainly looked like it could get up and move around on its own.”

After exploring the ruins for a little while longer, they eventually came to the temple town. Priests and priestesses strolled along the streets and there were quite a few shops that looked like it was catered solely to tourists.

Beyond the idyllic looking town was the largest stone building Haruna had ever seen in this world. It did not look like it could be built on individual wealth alone and had to be a public or religious building of some sort.

As she approached to study the building more closely, Haruna found that she recognized some art etched on it. “Hey, this picture looks a lot like a fish, na. Hmm, is it a carp… ?”

“Aah, Haruna-han, your knowledge is unexpectedly vast, naa. It is said that the god in this temple appeared riding on a carp. The land where she touched on became a pond where the carp swims in. The carp is also a messenger of god here.”

“So, it really is a drawing of a carp, na…”

“Yes, we call her Goddess Benten, a lot of people worship her because she is the goddess of performing arts and money-making, ya.

“Benten? You mean Benzaiten?! [1] Itsukushima Shrine’s Benzaiten!? What is this coincidence, na…”

Haruna unconsciously tensed up, she flashed her gaze around uneasily. This odd little place, neither an island nor an inland area felt strange to her senses. At first, its resemblance to Nara was the strongest, however, now that she thought about it, there were many elements of Hiroshima here as well.

 

By the way, this Goddess Benzaiten-sama was an India import and a completely different individual from the goddess enshrined at Itsukushima Shrine. However, Benzaiten and the nameless goddess of Japanese mythology had been mixed up for so long that even after the separation of Shinto and Buddhism during the early Meiji era, the confusion between these two goddesses remained.

“I’m fine if they don’t pick a fight with me, but if they come at me I’ll give them a trashing, na.”

“No way, ya. Please don’t start a fight on sacred grounds, wa.” Convinced that Haruna was just joking, Karen cheerfully paid the entrance fee and led the way into the temple. They trailed after a tour guide monk, listening to the commentary of the place as they made stops at various important looking spots.

However, the thing that stuck out most was an unexpected reunion.

“Oh? Why, it’s the Shop Manager! It’s Haruna-san, isn’t it?”

“Kokon! Why are you here?! Ah, that’s right, you’re a priestess of this place, naa…”

Kokon was the very first Adventurer who worked under Haruna when she started the [Haru-chan] business. Later, when she had amassed the needed money for necessary armour and weapons, she had formed a party with some other ex-employees and returned to her Adventuring life.

“Yes, many things had happened since then, I am working at this temple now. This must be a fateful encounter, I am on my way to make my report to Benten-sama.”

Inside the temple was a huge statue of a goddess that looked a lot like Venus de Milo. She held something like a plate in her hands, which was not unusual as there were plenty of paintings with gods and goddesses holding things. Also, Buddhist statues were often depicted while carrying items.

“From the size of the statue, I’d say this building was built after the statue was placed or built here. There is no way a statue that size could be transported here after the temple is built.”

“You are right. This temple is built on the exact site where Benten is enshrined. It fact, this temple used to be much bigger than this in the past.”

“That’s kind of similar to Nara. That aside, I feel like there’s something really odd about that plate…”

 

The Great Buddha Hall in Nara was also rebuilt after it was burnt down during one of Japan’s many wars, but it was not built according to the original size. The structure had been scaled down to conserve land area.

 

“It is said that the lust and desires of all humanity are concentrated on that plate, and that Benten has the power to realise the strings of longing buried within us.”

“Strings? You mean, like noodles?”

“Noodles? Certainly not! That kind of talk is heretical! Rather, Store Manager, please, do stop making fun of the temple…”

“Oh, I’m being serious. That thing on the plate looked a lot like a Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki…”

Suddenly, a strange thing happened.

“My daughter, can you hear this voice?”

The voice echoed within their head.

“Who is that?!”

“I am the statue of Benten, deified and enshrined within this temple.”

 

[Gumihou: This chapter is certainly unique.]

 

[1] Itsukushima Shrine

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Itsukushima_Shrine

 

 

 

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